I found myself at 29 with a suitcase full of sketches.
Other than in high school, I had never submitted any writing (poems, fiction, nonfiction, etc) for publication or a contest or any kind of review until just last month. Last month, however, I went through a serious process of clearing out the years of “backlog,” which can be a daunting task for any first-time submitter.
Like many aspiring writers, I had accumulated lots of paper over the years. Beyond the reams of fragmented ideas and sketches, my writing was primarily poetry. I’d written a collection during my lunch hours in 2006 that I gave to my parents for Christmas. I had many others that I’d written for friends or girlfriends or just myself. Some were jokes, some were “serious” (which makes them a bit funnier than the jokes, in hindsight). Some were first drafts, while (a very few) others had been through dozens of revisions.
So I had been writing, but all of these poems (and a few short stories) had received an audience of 0 to 4 people. After I sent the poem to its intended recipient, the poems sat on my hard drive or in an old cardboard box that moved from apartment to apartment with me like a musty albatross.
And there they sat like stones. Nothing was growing from them, there was no movement.
I suppose I was waiting for some sort of divine intervention. A benevolent virus to infect my computer and spam my poems to a bunch of reputable journals. Or a friend would suddenly turn all “Brewster’s Millions” and decide to publish my entire compendium in gold-leaf collector’s editions.
Of course, that never happened. During my most recent move, I was depressed to see poems that I had been proud of in 2003 that had sat undisturbed for almost a decade. They were still no closer to publication and the personal satisfaction I had derived in writing them was calcifying beside them.
So last month I decided to clear out the relics and submit everything I considered a good, decent, or at least complete poem. Having taken stock of my writing to date and sent off with all the poems I was proud, I feel an impetus to press forward without the illusory safety net of “completed” work held in reserve.
It’s a good feeling and a first step I’d recommend to any other long-term aspirants.
Next time, I’ll try to give some advice on preparing and submitting your first work, for late bloomers like me.